We looked at the offense yesterday. Today, we're looking at who will shine on defense in the Big Ten in 2014.
Bill: Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
I remember reading a few mock drafts that had Gregory going in the top five of the 2015 Draft, which is nuts, because I don't remember hearing anything about him last year (NOTE: that's not to say I didn't, I just don't remember anything because I didn't sleep last fall). Then I looked at his numbers and watched some highlights, and holy god this guy is terrifying. I think he's going to terrify opposing offenses, which I'm fine with, since Penn State doesn't play Nebraska this year.
Cari: Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
The MSU defense was monster last year, and Calhoun was a big part of that. The Spartan secondary played a huge part, of course, with Darqueze Dennard getting a lot of hype, but Calhoun helped anchor a front seven that was flat-out ridiculous, and he's back as a senior after a 37 tackle, 7.5 sack junior campaign. He won B1G Defensive Lineman of the year last year for a reason, and the reason is he's pretty darn good.
Devon: Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
Yeah, it has to be Shilique Calhoun. Dude was a complete wrecking crew for Michigan State, and that was as a sophomore. He's got Clowney-esque athleticism, and in Pat Narduzzi's defense, he's destined for huge things.
Matt: Noah Spence, DE, Ohio State State
I hate to do this, but I'm going with another Buckeye, junior DE Noah Spence. His ability is apparent, but his consistency has been lacking. Now with, sigh, Larry Johnson running things on the defensive line for OSU, I'm more than a little scared to see what he does with a player of Spence's ability.
Jared: Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
Shilique Calhoun was somewhat overshadowed in 2013 playing alongside a plethora of NFL talent. But this year, he should become one of the most talked about defensive players in college football. He's a tremendously gifted athlete who continues to improve, seemingly from week-to-week. Calhoun is such a disruptive force that teams will often be forced to avoid his side of the ball- crippling gameplans in the process. There's a great chance that Michigan State once again boasts the best defense in the nation, and with Calhoun leading the way, points against the Spartans will be scarce.
Ryan: Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
The best player on a defense last year may not have been Calhoun because of the NFL Draft buzz around the secondary and a linebacker core anchored by Max Bullough. Pat Narduzzi is no slouch when it comes to coaching up overlooked talent and how to put his best players in position to be successful. Calhoun is a special talent, but just like the rest of the Spartans team, it's going to be different now the target is on their back.
Dan: Joey Bosa, DL, Ohio State
The Ohio State defensive line will be the best in the nation this upcoming year and will be led by former Penn Stater spurner Noah Spence. However, the most tenacious athlete on that line will suit up opposite Spence in sophomore Joey Bosa. A freshman All-American last year, he recorded 7.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss while starting ten of fourteen games. While he's listed as a defensive end on the 2014 depth chart, he has the size (6-5, 285) to move to tackle if fellow hoss Michael Bennett needs a blow which would also allow other fellow hoss Adolphus Washington to step in at end. Oh, and he has Larry Johnson teaching his proper defensive lineman technique now. Run and hide, Big Ten quarterbacks.
Nick P: Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State
Shilique Calhoun is the more talented defensive player here for sure, and I don't knock anyone for choosing him. But have you seen the Ohio State defensive line? Bosa, Bennett, and Spence have the potential to make this the best line in the country. As we have seen over the years at Penn State, the key to any good defensive line is the dominating defensive tackle. Bennett fits that description perfectly, racking up 11 tackles for loss and seven sacks last season. He will only improve on those numbers, and will also make his über-talented defensive ends look better in the process. In this way, Bennett helps Bosa and Spence, but Bosa and Spence also help Bennett. If those two can force double teams to block them off the edges, it will just give Bennett that much more space to work with. And thus, the complementary nature of this powerful defensive line will lead to Michael Bennett being the most outstanding defensive player in the Big Ten.
Shilique Calhoun - 4
Randy Gregory - 1
Noah Spence - 1
Joey Bosa - 1
Michael Bennett - 1